Monday, 28 September 2009

Walking The Severn Way: Stage 9

Thursday, August 13th, 2009
Shrewsbury to Wroxeter
Only 8 miles

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In this issue.... find out about Scrobbesbyrig, walkers distress flares, slobbering canines, pirates ahoy, a very weird contraption, more battles with vegetation and a beautiful Silver Y.
Hello and welcome along again to the next stage of our meandering stroll alongside the River Severn, through some of the most beautiful countryside of Wales and England tracing the whole of its length right from the source at Plynlimon high up in the Mid Wales mountains to its end at the Bristol Channel. Join me now for 210 miles of the stunning River Severn Way with its wonderfully diverse scenery, its fabulous flora and fascinating fauna.

Click here to see how far we've travelled to date.

Shrews-bury or Shroes-bury
A lady train driver transports Pam and me to Shrewsbury this morning for the start of our next stage of The Severn Way walk.

Is it
Shrews-bury or is it Shroes-bury by the way? I've always pronounced it 'roe' as in fish eggs but I was corrected on the train to said town today by the ticket collector who told me with some slight disdain in his voice that it was pronounced 'shrew' as in the mouse-type creature. 'There's no letter 'O' in the word' he told me followed by 'I should know - I live there!'

This mild outburst heard by other passengers around seemed to make it unquestionable, yet I wasn't convinced. I knew I'd seen an explanation somewhere recently that had cemented my own theory that gave Shroe over Shrew! But where had I seen it? I just wish I could recall quick enough to catch him on the way back to offer my reason for apparently so incorrectly pronouncing his home town. And then I suddenly remembered - it was in The Severn Way Guide Book that was in my rucksack sitting at my feet!

Aha... now which page was it... can't find it. I know I saw it somewhere in here. Flick through page after page, reading note after irrelevant note. Yes! Here it is...

Shrewsbury was built in Saxon times and was originally known as Scrobbesbyrig. OK - you can't quite see how the name has evolved over the years but at least there was an 'O' there. I suppose it could have changed over the centuries to Shrobbesbyrig, Shrosbyrig, Shrowsbury and then someone decided the letter 'e' was better than 'o' but surely the original pronunciation should hold? After all I was born in the Leicestershire village of Groby which has always been pronounced Grooby simply because, again in Saxon times, it had a double 'oo'.

Anyway, in my mind, the evidence and proof that I was right was now overwhelming. Now... where's that ticket collector? Suddenly, the on-board tannoy system burst shrilly into action 'This is your train steward, the train is now approaching Shrews-bury station. The train terminates here. All change please'.

And that was it. Never had the chance!

Never mind!

Here we are. Oh... I see you're all waiting for us. Great stuff. The Severn Way path is just at the side of the station so let's get straight on the trail. We have to climb steps to cross the platforms and then descend steps the other side to get back to our welcoming friend - the River Severn.

What wonderful houses sit here on the side of the River Severn silently residing over all that happens.

Quite a few people use this stretch as a commuting link to the town centre; mums taking their children to school or nursery, cyclists flying along to the office, brisk walkers heading for another day's toil and people walking their dogs.

Slobbering canines
A little Jack Russell on one of those long leads attached to an orange plastic gadget, in turn attached to a dog-lover's hand, who can at any time stop the lead from going further, but obviously thinks it great fun to let the yapping, tail-wagging, jaw-snapping creature bound towards us whereupon the thing jumps up licking our arms, hands and other parts of our anatomy that we'd rather not have licked by a canine mutt, until seeing our reaction simply giggles and says 'He just wants to play'.

Had it not occurred to you madam that we do not want to play with said brat?! What are leads for if not to control these crazy human-loving animals? And why, oh why, do so many dog-owners think it immensely funny when their 'little babies' insist on splattering you with stinking, dripping, slimy, dirty saliva? Would you like it if I did it to you? I'm not a dog-hater, I just wish they wouldn't assume that ever human is a long-lost friend that needs coveting!

Pirates ahoy!
And where are the dearly-loved Health & Safety Executive when you need them? You know... when a dog insists on showering you with slobber. It can't be healthy. Where are they? I'll tell you where they are; they're working on a plan to stop this year's dress-up pirates from taking part in the World Plank Walking Championship because the water that the participants will be toppling into, they feel, should be tested and properly certificated before the event can take place, which subsequently results in it having to be cancelled! Sheer looniness! Who gives these people jobs and more to the point - WHY?!

Sorry! Dog and health & safety officials rant over! Just gets to me sometimes! Well.. I mean... OK, OK, let's forget it. We have wet-wipes to hand to get rid of the filthy slime now dripping off our fingers, arms and clothes, so we'll soon get over it!

It still amazes me when I think back to May and the start of this trail on the top of Plynlimon hill where the source is a small boggy puddle and look at it now; a raging torrent tumbling forcefully over the weir carrying all sorts of unfortunate debris with it.

More Battles With Vegetation
It's not long before the Severn Way moves away from the river and we find ourselves once more battling against the pretty but nevertheless invasive Himalayan Balsam, here it's thriving really well - it's about 10' tall and seems to be everywhere. This particular short stretch we're finding a real struggle.
We eventually emerge into a field and in a few more minutes arrive at our first check-point. This is where we look at the time and compare it to our carefully worked out route-timings. We're 14 minutes behind schedule, which on a normal Sunday afternoon stroll is rarely a problem but as you know we invariably have to catch a bus or train at the end of each stage and some only run once a day, so timing is always at the forefront of our minds although I know I've allowed a little extra on each stage leg for mishaps, points of interest, and unforgiving terrain (in this case the Himalayan Balsam). So... we need to catch up a little and forego our planned 10 minute break. Sorry!

Pam's quite at home with cows these days

It's not long before we arrive at our designated lunch spot, by the side of our river. We find a log and rest awhile in this tranquil spot.

We're joined by an inquisitive Red-legged Partridge who seems to be saying 'What are you doing here? This is my spot'. He keeps circling us, watching but always ready to scuttle away if we show it any attention.

Having caught up on our 14-minute loss earlier, our lunch is leisurely. No pressure. We're now back on and bang on time.

Sated, we shoulder our rucksacks and continue. The wild flowers alongside the river are so beautiful. I stop often to inspect, photograph and try to identify which often worries Pam who prefers to walk on lest we get behind again. Here's a gorgeous Purple Loosestrife clinging to the river bank for example:-

Whoops! Maybe Pam is right. We never know what's round the next bend in the river. We're suddenly confronted with a Severn Way walk marker on a stile that seems to be sending us into impenetrable overgrown undergrowth!

We climb the stile and attempt the battle. 5 minutes later and we've moved about 10 feet! A high barbed wire fence at the side looks like quite a challenge but it means we can walk in the field at the side rather than go any further along here - it's 2 fields long according to the map. So... carefully and slowly we negotiate the barbs and we're free. A few minutes later we see a lady negotiating the same stretch coming the other way. I call to her to tell her that it doesn't get any easier and she'd be better off walking the field. She takes heed and thanks us.

With time and inclination I think it would be an excellent idea to return with suitable tools and protection and forge a way through this jungle but I fear once done it would mean an ongoing commitment to keep it open. Life is too short.

Soon after we reach the A5 crossing the River Severn, and do you see that hill in the background? That's Shropshire's most prominent hill - The Wrekin at 1400' above sea-level. Nowhere near mountain status of course but a lovely hill to climb with the most magnificent views of Shropshire and the Welsh mountains.Weird Contraption
We pass a farm at the tiny Emstrey hamlet which proudly sports this bizarre piece of equipment;-
Any ideas? It has what looks like empty flagons with tubes. Personally, I think it's there to simultaneously administer a gallon of beer each to 8 weary recumbent ramblers, but I could be wrong! And obviously the cellar is dry today! Anyone else with any other 'sensible' theory?

The weather today is mainly cloudy but mild. The terrain generally flat but with several areas of overgrown paths it's not proving to be the easiest of stages. And then we hit the maize field!

This amazing crop grows up to 10 feet high and when it grows over the only path through it proves to be another one of those path challenges!

Does anyone have a Maize Maze near them? As this blog goes out to followers in all corners of the globe (I always find the term 'corners of the globe' a tad silly - how can there be corners on a sphere?) it could be that many of you have no idea what I'm talking about when I rattle on about a Maize Maze. Well... as a diversification for farmers in England and an attempt to increase their annual income squashed as it is with various EU demands, restrictions and subsidy cuts, they grow maize for the crop but then pay a professional maze designer to devise a complex maze through the maize and then open it up to the paying public. The one's that I've been in are aMAZEing! You can spend half a day in a large, intricately designed maze just trying to get to the centre platform and the rest of the day trying to get out!

Well... we're in one now! Difference is there are no paths! But then we didn't have to pay! Pam wonders whether walkers such as ourselves ought to carry distress flares in case of accident or incident like getting lost in a maize field maybe? I suggested that perhaps she shouldn't go bargain hunting for distress flares. She ponders on the possibility of purchasing 50 for perhaps the normal price of 25. How often would we use one and would we get into trouble when a police helicopter or mountain rescue turn up to find a bewildered couple in the middle of a crop of maize, holding on to the remains of a large over-the-top distress flare for instance?
After about 15 minutes we emerge into pasture land and breathe a sigh of relief. We disturb a day-flying moth just resting in the grass.

Silver Y
Guess why it's called a Silver Y?! Look closer.

It's a common migrant in Britain where it can be seen from Spring right through to Autumn. Although it flies mainly by day it's a species I often find in my moth-trap at night.

Road Work
After the peace and tranquillity of the countryside we eventually emerge onto a busy road for the final couple of miles to the stage-end. Not a pleasant experience this. We have to walk in single-file here constantly prepared to jump into the hedge when a huge lorry suddenly hurtles around the corner in front of us. I can't help feeling that with some pressure from the right groups/authorities an alternative path could be arranged which would take in the National Trust-owned Attingham Park which sports a fabulous deer park and 18th century mansion house with Regency interiors. It would make for a far more pleasant stretch of the Severn Way.
We won't report this next and arduous stretch of the walk as it's one of the most unpleasant so far, although the village of Atcham itself is of minor interest. However, it isn't too long before we arrive at our stage-end at the Roman city of Viroconivm at Wroxeter as the sun arrives to reveal a wonderfully bright and warm afternoon. Because we'd scuttled along the last 2 miles of road and somehow managed to get ahead elsewhere coupled with foregoing our planned stop at Atcham we find ourselves arriving here exactly one hour before the bus, so time to buy an ice cream and have a look around this importantly historic site.

We relieve ourselves of our rucksacks, Pam complaining that hers is particularly heavy today. I ask if she's not secretly already carrying her own batch of distress flares!

At its height this site was the fourth largest Roman town in Britain. It started out as a military camp in circa AD58 and then 30 years later was developed into a civilian town. After the Romans left historians tell us that the site continued as an important urban civilisation until around the 7th century but was eventually abandoned.

History lesson over, bus is about to arrive so we'll catch up with you next time when we plan to walk from one ancient monument at Wroxeter to another at Buildwas Abbey. Don't miss us and if you haven't entered your email in the field at the top for an automatic post-alert please feel free to do so, don't worry you won't get any spam (we hate it with a vengeance like everyone else!), we won't pass your email address onto anyone else and you'll receive nothing from us other than a short automatically-generated email for each stage of the walk. If you can't see the email field top right it's because you're reading this in an email or RSS feed so you need to trip over to the main blog at

Walking Companions
If you'd like a friend or friends to come along too just send them the link:- We'll make them most welcome. The more the merrier! I know I've said before I prefer to walk on my own but you're so quiet I hardly notice you're there. It's only at the end of each stage you tend to make a comment, and talking of comments...

Don't forget to leave one below; help, advice, silly banter, words of encouragement are all very much welcomed and I know then you're definitely following me! Don't see 'Comments' below? It's because you're reading this post in an email or RSS feed - just click here to go to the main blog:-


Anonymous said...

Your blocked path has been cleared - vegetation cut down. However we both developed a horrid rash on our legs after the walk - could be sap or spray. We had trousers tucked in our socks and wore boots.


Paul e Watts said...

Thanks Sally - that's just brilliant! Well done! I'm sure many more walkers will be very grateful!